The 90s were arguably the best decade to grow up in. A time full of hip hop concerts, MTV music videos, Blockbuster movies and kids who grew up with real toys instead of iPhones. The clothes, music, movies and lifestyle had a lasting impression and aesthetic that still play a large part in shaping pop culture and America as a whole.
Making his debut as screenwriter and director, actor Jonah Hill — best known for his starring roles in “Superbad” and “21 Jump Street” — takes audiences back in time to two decades ago with “Mid90s”. Hill captures a realistic depiction of 90s skate culture with the underage drinking, smoking and typical skater lifestyle, and portrays activities like trespassing and causing a general ruckus.
The film focuses on a time when adolescence, suburbia and change all collided to form a new era for 13-year-old Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, who lives with his concerned single mom and abusive older brother, Ian, in Los Angeles. As a kid dealing with adolescence, Stevie faces a variety of challenges ranging from making new friends, having to fit in and finding his place in the world, all while conflicting with his mom and his brother.
Stevie had never skated a day in his life, but decides to take it up after observing the thrill and bond between a group of boys that hangout outside the skate shop. The group consists of a party animal nicknamed Fuckshit, a cameraman nicknamed Fourth Grade, the second-youngest boy named Ruben, and leader named Ray. Stevie gradually gets initiated into the group and acquires his own new nickname, Sunburn, and soon afterward begins engaging in all sorts of reckless stunts and activities he had never partaken in. Stevie’s first cigarette, first kiss and first time being drunk definitely generate a sense of worry about Stevie’s choices.
Overall, the film does a good job establishing a relationship between audiences and Stevie by emphasizing relatable problems in his life: trying to grow up, fitting in and figuring out who he was. It seems like Hill wanted to show real-life problems a lot of people probably experienced as they were growing up in the 90s and now.
The film is shot entirely on a Super 16 millimeter film camera, which has a square-shaped aspect ratio instead of typical full screen. This created a feeling of nostalgia that really gives the film that 90’s aesthetic.
While the 90’s itself will always be memorable and impactful, the film lacked narrative and neglected to show agency in Stevie’s character, leaving the audience to ask for greater significance and meaning. Different characters throughout the movie experienced various problems in their lives, yet there was no real conflict that was resolved, and as a result the film did not have a long-lasting impression. Personally, I felt it was an honest movie that needed more of an significant, less-predictable storyline. It also seemed like the movie ended very suddenly without completely giving context on what was going to happen to the group next.
This film is very honest and cute, filled with an abundance of life lessons. I believe that it should be watched by everyone at least once, but it might not be your favorite project by Jonah Hill.
3.5 out of 5 stars!
Andrea Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.